The Coming Redemption
There is a condition of our time which is ignored by many believers and unknown to many others. That condition could well be summed up in a single sentence, “It is coming, but we are not in the kingdom yet.”
The present condition of our world is well described by the Apostle Paul when he said, “For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22,23).
In saying this, Paul points up a truth that will be ignored only at our own peril. He reminds us of the fact that creation is not yet the object of divine redemption. The ultimate redemption and transformation of the external world is in the program of God, but “not yet.”
While many attempt to convince themselves into believing otherwise, the fact is that we still travail in pain while we move through this unredeemed world. We have not yet been delivered from suffering and physical death.
We do not understand this unless we understand the nature of personal salvation. When I receive Christ as my Savior, my spirit is instantly saved “to the uttermost.” I am given the gift of everlasting life. We know that we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but we forget that redemption up until this point applies only to the spirit of man and not yet to his physical body. In fact, the whole creation still groans for that day of redemption, but it has not seen it as yet. Therefore, we are reminded in Scripture that “we are saved by hope” (Rom. 8:24). When we receive Christ, we have the “hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).
One of the grave problems of our time is that too many Christians (and too many denominations) have become tired of living on the basis of hope in Christ. Therefore, they have invented a theology and report a whole set of experiences which are the claim to fulfillment, rather than hope. In effect, they are fatigued with mere anticipation of the kingdom and have now started to publicly claim that “the kingdom is now.” “Kingdom now” theology has come upon us in strong fashion, producing reports of initial ecstasy. But then comes long-term despondency in the lives of the people who follow these doctrines.
“Kingdom now” theology claims that all of the promises made to anybody in the entire Bible are present possession of all believers in these moments of this life. Their foolish slogan is “name it and claim it.” Therefore, miracles, healing, financial riches, glowing health and life without problems are now promised by the unthinking leaders and given to naive Christians. The consequence is that multitudes of individuals, ignoring the teaching of the Word of God, claim to be experiencing personal riches, the solution to every problem, deliverance from the pressures of this world and all of this as a result of “claiming the promises.” Such theology, as against realizing the promises of Christ, ignores His promise. Jesus said to Christians, “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
Again and again, the New Testament Scriptures warn the Believer against spiritual presumption. By presuming that “everything I want, God will give to me,” they are denying the assertion of Scripture. The Bible says, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for His sake; Having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:29,30). So it is that Paul promises that one of the gifts from God, which we seldom hear preached, is the gift of suffering for the sake of Christ. Why does suffering, sickness and death still continue in our world? The answer is that the kingdom is not yet. We are redeemed spiritual beings who live in an unredeemed world. Argue as we will, this is still the case. If we believe otherwise, we risk the possibility of severe disillusionment, which, of course, can lead to despair.
The promise we have now is the unfailing presence of Christ and His gift of sufficient grace. That gift, which is ours now, is the best of all!
Facing the Future
There is some degree of expectation which lives in the heart of every person. Were this not so, what would be the reason for getting up in the morning? The fact is that most have expectations which reach into not only today, but also the months, the years to come. For them, when an annual milestone is passed and they look forward to the year to come, most will certainly ask the question, “Will this be the year?”
For most people, however, expectations run along the lines of the natural world. They ask, “Could this be the year?” but they are referring to a clearly human event.
Most are probably asking, “Could this be the year when I break through into long-awaited success in life?” They have labored for years and looked forward to that indefinable time in the future when “success” would be theirs.
There are many other kinds of expectations. Many others will say, “This could be the year of my happy marriage.” From that point, expectations begin to slowly circle around that event which is coming up on the “4th of June.” The fact is that the majority of hopes, of expectations center around the achievement of personal happiness. Dreams that are carried in mind, often for many years, become the object of expectations. Truly, hope springs eternal within the human breast: “This could be the year when dreams come true.”
We Christians, however, have greater expectations. For us, “the year,” could bring the return of Christ. The Bible says that every Christian should “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). Those who obey this admonition (and the numbers are growing) find themselves often in a time of thrilling contemplation. They ask questions such as “What will it be like to go to heaven?” And “How will I feel when I walk the streets of gold?” Especially, they wonder, “What will it be like to meet Jesus Christ face-to-face?” Even the simplest answer to that question creates a thrill for the soul that can be afforded from no other source. The hope of heaven is a very real thing! Every person who has believed in Jesus Christ has eternal life. That eternal life will include residing in one of the palaces of heaven. It will include partaking of the fountains of pure water. We will thrill to the music of the angelic choir, and the greatest delight of all, fellowship with God Himself.
The great thrill reverberates within the world when we are able to say, “Perhaps today.” Yes, our hearts are lifted with ecstasy when we give the Christian response to the assertion, “This could be the year!” The year of what? Why, of course, the year when Jesus comes again to take us home to be with Himself.
Let there be no doubt about it! The coming of Jesus Christ and our trip to heaven is a sure and certain promise given to us in the Word of God. Listen once again to the Apostle Paul’s description of that great event, the Rapture of the Church; “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
The Lord does not give us the day or the hour of His coming. Why? Because, of course, He wants us to be ready for His coming at any given time. He wants us to say, “This could be the year,” or even, “Perhaps today.”
Remember that Jesus said, “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes” (Matt.24:43-44).
Many will say, “I believe Christ may come this year, but what shall I do?”
The answer again comes from the word of Christ, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he comes shall find so doing. Verily I say to you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods” (Matt. 24:45-47). The faithful servant was the one who, in the absence of his master, continued to faithfully conduct himself as a servant of the Lord. What then shall we do? With this example of faithfulness in mind. . .
1. Be a Christian. The Bible teaches that the one who has believed in Christ as His personal Savior has eternal life and will not perish. In addition, he has the presence of Christ, the privilege of prayer, the promise that his needs will be supplied and the assurance that God will be with him in trouble. Christianity then, properly understood, causes a person to be “anxious for nothing.”
2. Be consecrated to Christ. One who has committed his life to the Son of God has, in a very real way, placed himself in the hands of another. One who has taken up his cross already sees himself as being dead to this world, crucified with Christ and now living for Him. The consecrated life is one then that can no longer be hurt, jeopardized, buffeted or put in peril. It belongs to the Lord and is no longer mine to protect.
3. Don’t let the past have too much influence. The Apostle Paul said that one of the principles of his life was “forgetting those things which are behind.” For each of us the trail of life has been characterized by successes, failures, mistakes, accomplishments, joys, sorrows, regrets and moments of which to be proud. The point is that none of these should unduly influence the present or the future.
Past accomplishments can produce pride and this can destroy us. Past sins produce guilt, but the Christian knows that forgiveness is available from Christ. He, therefore, lives the forgiven life which is then succeeded by the victorious life. He learns from the past, but he knows that those lessons are of little value compared with the presence of Christ and the leadership of the Holy Spirit today.
4. Reach forward to the future. The Christian looks forward to the fulfillment of the promises of God in his life this very day. Such an attitude produces spiritual initiative, the imperative quality for any accomplishment. The Christian, living life with zeal, is constantly reaching forward, certain that he will daily enjoy the fulfillment of the promise of Christ, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”
5. Remember, heaven awaits beyond. Above all other considerations that have to do with time, the Christian knows that he will, one day, be translated from the vicissitudes of time into the glorious, sunlit skies of eternity. He is sure that the day is coming in which God will wipe away all tears, in which there will be neither sorrow nor crying. He knows that the greatest joys and deepest anxieties of this passing, shadowy scene are ephemeral, impermanent things. All that life has to offer, which seems so big today, will soon become “the former things” which will have passed away. Earth is the shadow, heaven is the substance. This life is but the prelude to reality.
The believer who remembers these things can handle every difficulty of the journey through the passing scene of time. He can face the future with joyous anticipation because the certainty of heaven to come is a far more “sure thing” than any of the variegations through which he may now be traveling.
Destiny Newsletter continued